Scots Roots

Blackness Castle
July 25, 2013, 4:25 pm
Filed under: Photographs, Scottish History | Tags: ,

Blackness Castle stands on the south shore of the Firth of Forth, near the village of Blackness which in medieval times served as the port for the royal burgh of Linlithgow. The castle was built in the 15th century by the Crichtons, a powerful Scottish family. It served mainly as a garrison fortress and a state prison and later as an ammunition depot.  It was decommissioned after the First World War and passed into state care as a visitor attraction.

Blackness Castle

Blackness Castle

Blackness Castle

Blackness Castle

To see more, please click on Scottish Castles.


Fife Regatta 2013 Photos
July 15, 2013, 9:52 am
Filed under: Photographs, Scottish History | Tags: ,

I’ve added some photos of the Fife Regatta to my collection on Flickr.

Fife Regatta 2013

Fife Regatta 2013

To see more, please click on Fife Regatta.

The Fife Regatta takes place every 5 years when boats designed and built by William Fife at his boatyard on the Firth of Clyde, some now over 100 years old, return to Scotland from all over the world to race each other in their home waters.
Copyright © Scots Roots Research 2013

Alexander McMillan (1860 – 1932)

Alexander McMillan Alexander McMillan was born on 18 January 1860 in Grantown on Spey in Morayshire, the son of the village policeman.

Shortly before 1860, Alex’ father, John McMillan had been the school teacher at Kintail in Ross-shire but, in a fairly dramatic career change, had moved to Grantown, along with his wife Elizabeth and his three children, Ann, Donald and Johanna, to become its police constable.

In 1861, the family stayed in a small property at the West End of Grantown but by 1871 they had moved to the much larger Courthouse at the Square, having increased in number with the addition of several more children, Chirsty, John, Marjory and Margaret. The 1871 Census shows that part of the Courthouse was also used as the local prison.

By 1873, the family had moved to Cowdenbeath in Fife, where Alex’ youngest brother, Charles, was born and then to Markinch where his father continued to serve as a police officer until his retirement.

The next we hear of Alex is in 1881, aged 21, lodging at School Street, West Calder in West Lothian, and working as a teacher. School life is hard and the school in West Calder appears to be on the verge of falling down.

Before 1875, West Calder had a couple of main schools, the Public School and the Subscription School, both usually short staffed, often just one teacher and a couple of pupil teachers. In 1875, the managers of the Subscription School decided to hand their school over to the new School Board and the two schools were joined under the name of West Calder Public School with one building being used for senior pupils and the other used for juniors. A business meeting of the School Board in 1885 records that the West Calder schools had 6 teachers, 1 pupil teacher and 633 pupils. However, throughout this period, steady and prolonged criticism was made of the dilapidated state of the school buildings and the general conditions under which the staff worked.

On 19 October 1883, Alex married Elizabeth Gillon, daughter of Robert Gillon, a grocer in the village. Presumably, Alex was a reluctant bridegroom as their son, John, was born two days later on 21 October.

His family was further supplemented by Elizabeth, born in 1885, Annie, born in 1887 and Robert, born in 1891.

Addiewell Oil WorksSome time before 1885, Alex gave up teaching, possibly because the salary wasn’t enough to support his growing family, and he took a job as a clerk with Young’s Paraffin Light and Mineral Oil Company, one of the district’s largest employers, at the nearby Addiewell Oil Works.

Alex was very much involved in West Calder village life. In his younger days he was a keen athlete, being a very good short distance runner. He was Secretary of West Calder Football Club when the village had a senior team which could hold its own with the best of the country clubs in the East.

In March 1885, the Courier reports on a meeting of the West Calder Mutual Improvement Society – “the business of the meeting being a mimic parliament on the subject before the house – a vote censure on the Government’s Egyptian Policy. Mr Kennedy, teacher, was Premier and had as members of his Cabinet………Mr McMillan, Lord Advocate”.

He was one of the earliest members of West Calder Bowling Club and also of the Volunteers (a citizen army of part-time soldiers which was a precursor to today’s Territorial Army). He filled, for many years, the position of secretary of the local Horticultural Society and was a prominent member of the “Thistle” Lodge of Free Masons, secretary of the Lodge Friendly Society and Scribe E of the Royal Arch Chapter. He was one of the founding members of the Burns Club and held the position of treasurer for many years. In the earlier days of the West Calder Games, he acted as secretary. When a branch of the Farmers Union started in West Calder, they appointed him secretary and treasurer. He identified himself with almost every local organisation and offered valuable service.

Alex’ daughters Margaret and Joanna were born in 1894 and 1899 respectively. By 1899, he had moved to Union Street, still recorded as a mercantile clerk.

Shortly after the turn of the century, he became the owner and inn-keeper at the West End Hotel in West Calder where regular meetings of the West Calder ‘Clachan’ Burns Club were held.

In February 1908, the Midlothian Advertiser reports “On Friday evening the West Calder ‘Clachan’ Burns Club celebrated the anniversary of the National Bard’s birth under the hospitable roof of the West End Inn……… Mr MacMillan had prepared a sumptuous repast to which ample justice was done, more especially as the fare was ‘hamely’ and inviting. “Mack’s Hoose” has seldom sheltered a happier company…….Mr MacMillan proposed “Oor Ain Club”. He stated that the club was formed in 1883 and that although many of their original members had gone to other towns, and others were pushing their fortunes in foreign lands they still kept in touch with “their ain club” at hame. They had members all over the world, some in Australia, others in Canada, and several in South Africa, and some of them had minded them on that occasion by wishing the club a very happy evening. He hoped the club would go on and prosper in the years to come”.

During that period Alex, now in his 40s, became president of the Bowling Club. In 1906, following the opening of the new tennis court adjoining the bowling green, the Advertiser reports “Mr A. MacMillan, president of the Bowling Club, then stepped forward and opened the Bowling Club for the season. In doing so, Mr MacMillan said the past season of the club had been a most successful one. They had only lost one of the many matches played. The membership also had been very satisfactory and the funds were in a healthy state. They had not succeeded in bringing home any of the trophies but they hoped to do something in that line this season. He trusted that they would again have a good membership and that the game of bowling would continue to flourish in the village”.

Disaster struck in 1910 and Alex had to give up the hotel due to his wife Elizabeth’s failing health.

According to the Advertiser: “On Friday of last week a large and representative company met in the West End Inn to make a presentation to Mr and Mrs A. MacMillan on the occasion of their leaving the Inn.

Mr Robert Thomson, J.P., presided and Mr James Millar, Pumpherston Farm, acted as croupier. Refreshments were served to the company.

In making the presentation, Mr Millar said in joining with them that night to honour their esteemed guest, Mr MacMillan, which he did most heartily, he felt his inability to do anything like justice to their desires, or to the worthiness of the occasion ……He did not think they were met to honour their guest because of the high quality of the fluids he purveyed to the public, or for the manner in which he had conducted what one might call an exceptionally difficult business, although he had done so with great credit to himself and honour to the trade, but rather for their admiration for him as a man, with a personality which commanded their respect, and for qualities of head and heart, which won their admiration.

Mr MacMillan, in reply, said he felt very much the honour which had been done him, and the presence of such a representative company. The Chairman and the Croupier had made reference to the very pleasant relationships which had always existed between him and the farmers and others who met on his premises from time to time. He was pleased to think that what he had tried to do for their comfort had been so highly appreciated, but he felt that he had only done his duty. He was very pleased to see they had remembered Mrs MacMillan, as she was more entitled to any credit than he was. The burden of the work as a rule fell upon her. They were aware that she had been unwell for some time, but he was glad to be able to state that she was improving, and doubtless their kind remembrance of her would do much to cheer her in her illness.”

Sadly, Elizabeth McMillan died of heart disease in December that same year, at the age of 48.

In the following years, Alex remained committed to the Bowling Club and to the Burns Club, the newspapers regularly reportGravestoneing on games played and toasts given.

He continued at Addiewell Works until he retired, working mainly as a clerk in the mining office and in later years in charge of the weighing of the shale supplies as they came from the pits.

His son John became a mining engineer, based at the Niddry Castle mine at Winchburgh, son Robert was a plumber locally and two of his daughters were teachers at West Calder in the 1920s and early 1930s.

Alex McMillan died on 9 June 1932, aged 72, due to a perforated ulcer.

On 17 June 1932, the Midlothian Advertiser gave a brief history of his time in the village and reported “The funeral took place to West Calder Cemetery on Sunday afternoon and was attended by the members of the “Thistle” Lodge of Free Masons who carried through the service. The pall bearers had been his pupils when he was a teacher in West Calder School. A very large company of mourners was present to pay their last tribute of respect to one who was well known and had been associated with the public life of the village for over half a century”.

Copyright © Scots Roots Research 2013

(This article was also published in The Oak Tree, the Journal of the West Lothian Family History Society.)


Fife Regatta 2013
July 8, 2013, 12:11 pm
Filed under: Scottish History | Tags: ,

Went up to Tighnabruaich last week to watch part of the Fife Regatta. Here’s a short video of some of the boats.

The Fife Regatta takes place every 5 years when boats designed and built by William Fife at his boatyard on the Firth of Clyde, some now over 100 years old, return to Scotland from all over the world to race each other in their home waters.
Copyright © Scots Roots Research 2013

%d bloggers like this: